“Get ready as best you can to a future in a wheel chair”, the doctor told 27-year old Shulamit that she had Multiple Sclerosis (MS). What would you do if you got such bleak news? Do you know what it means to have MS? Do you know MS is another autoimmune disease, like the Rheumatoid Arthritis I have? Is there hope beyond a chronic illness diagnosis?
Today, I’m happy to give you Shulamit’s story. She was diagnosed with MS in Mexico 30+ years ago and was determined to prove the doctors wrong that she would need a wheel chair. She learned how to not only cope with chronic illness, but thrive with MS. She’s now a published author, theracoach and an inspiration to those of us who battle chronic illness.
Please read, comment and share Shulamit’s story to help raise awareness of chronic illness and give her a warm welcome to Mom’s Small Victories!
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Finding Hope Beyond Chronic Illness
An Interview with Shulamit Lando, Theracoach and Author of Hope Beyond Illness: A Guide to Living Well with Chronic Illness
1. Please briefly describe what MS is and how it impacts your life.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system, in which the brain has difficulty getting messages to the rest of the body. This means that it affects especially the voluntary muscles of the body. It’s a chronic condition that progresses at varying rates. Although MS can lead to total disability, most people are able to manage symptoms with some degree of success.
The kind of MS I have (Relapsing-Remitting) comes and goes in episodes. The symptoms can be severe for a while and then disappear. I have lived with it for almost 34 years. It started when I was 27 years old and for 15 years after the diagnosis my life was all around and about it. But fortunately, and contrary to what the doctors predicted, today I hardly have any symptoms to talk about and I haven’t had any attack for almost 10 years straight.
2. When did you first receive your diagnosis of MS? How did you react to the news?
I love this question because it was so significant for me. I was diagnosed after 5 years of living with it because this was the begging of the 80’s, in Mexico, and there was not even an MRI then, so the diagnosis had to be done by comparing episodes. So it took them 5 years of turning me inside out with test to get to a diagnosis. I had a very particular reaction that I tell about it in my book because it actually became an “issue” between my mom and I for a while. My mother was there with me when I heard “You have MS, “Esclerosis Multiple” (in Spanish) an incurable, progressive, degenerative disease… and the first words that came out of my mouth, an expression of my impotence were: “I forbid you to tell anyone, Mom!” I could imagine her talking on the phone (to calm herself down, for sure) letting the whole world know of the tragedy that had befallen her and her daughter. Indeed it was a “tragedy” in more ways than one, but it was also my experience, my challenge. I knew in my gut that whatever meaning I would choose to give it (‘the end of my life’ or ‘a challenge’) would determine how things were going to develop. My response was a gut reaction. I didn’t want the weight of everyone’s eyes and worry on me, thinking “what a tragedy!” or “poor thing!” on my already hunched shoulders.
3. What is the best advice you have gotten or do you give to those who are recently diagnosed with MS or another chronic illness?
Other than therapy, there were so few tools available in my time, so I didn’t personally get any! That is one of the main reasons why I wrote this book that is full of tips of what to do in order to deal the best way possible. I would certainly suggest some kind of counseling or medical coaching even better. I would like all to know that even though your life may have changed radically, your life is not over! The same way you had to learn how to find happiness and wellbeing before, you will have to learn a different way now. Some people dwell with “why me?” I found the question that worked (and still does) for me is “what now?”
4. I have Rheumatoid Arthritis which is often a misunderstood illness. Do you find that the general public understands MS? What do you wish others (non-patients) understood about MS and living with MS?
MS is a very capricious illness. Everyone experiences it differently. For many, unless you are in a full blown episode, you can’t see anything. But for most, you do see the body’s difficulty or disability. I think that what people don’t know (for all of these chronic illnesses) is that it can affect you emotionally so much. Depression comes with it, spaciness, lack of focus, you get slower in many ways. Some people, especially those close to you that knew you before, get very impatient when they see you not present or performing in your usual way. But as I said, this is something that happens if not with every condition, with many.
5. What are your favorite tools and resources to help you cope with the daily life of MS?
Meditating, which implies breathing and EFT Tapping are 2 of the most important tips I give in my book and when I am asked. We don’t think clearly when we are in shock. After trying so many things I consider that EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) Tapping is probably the most powerful, noninvasive, simple and effective tool around to calm the body, emotions and mind from the stress created by any shock. When we can think these stressful thoughts in a more relaxed state they don’t have the same power over us and it becomes easy to release the difficult emotions in order to have access to our inner strengths for better decision making. Especially about “what now?”, what steps to take.
Now, with the internet, everything is at our fingertips. I would suggest that the person learns to “meditate” or at least make some quiet time, play some meditation or relaxation music, or guided audios, and breathe slowly and deeply for a while every day! (I share a few links in my book) And above everything else, I would suggest to learn and start to do tapping. A few minutes of tapping a day will change any situation around, mentally, emotionally and therefore, even physically. It is so much easier to make decisions and think clearly with a quiet mind. And it is such an easy technique to learn with fast results to calm and quiet yourself. Once the mind is quieted from the scare, we can have better access to our strengths and intuition. And certainly good massages!
6. How do you juggle/balance the demands of your coaching business, writing and self-care?
Good question. Since it is such a fine line between enough and too much, sometimes I do lose balance and overwork. But, since I have lived with it for so long, I have already developed sort of like an inner knowing, a natural alarm, that tells me ‘it’s time to take a break’. Siesta time, even though I hardly ever fall asleep, I do lay down and unwind. I listen to a healing recording, relaxation, guided visualization, whatever that relaxes my mind and my body.
7. Dealing with the physical symptoms of chronic illness is difficult enough for patients but it’s often the “chronic” nature of the illness that causes a sense of hopelessness and depression. What’s one tip you can give our readers deal with the mental strain and depression?
Yes, that is a big issue indeed. My book is full of tips. Every chapter tells a vignette of my experience and is followed by some “Tips to help yourself” from many different approaches. But to zoom in at this moment, I’d say: There are two types of people; those who break and those who build anew. I would strongly encourage everyone to become aware of the words you use to tell yourself and others about your situation because, the way you feel about anything at all is down to 2 things: the pictures you make in your head and the words you say to yourself. Our words create our feelings and those feelings create our reality (the way we experience our reality). Those who start creating a verbal story of tragedy, of “why me?”, “poor me”, will be inevitably aligning themselves in the direction of depression and hopelessness. Those who dare to try a more open, hopeful verbalization and start a search of “What now?” will have a better chance and a more realistic possibility of moving form despair to hope. The ultimate realization I had, for myself, was that Illness is the way (not that I would ever choose it), but once the cards are dealt, it serves to see the illness as having a higher spiritual purpose.
8. Describe the methods you use in your therapy that makes you unique from other life coaches.
I call what I do TheraCoaching and the methods and strategies I use are too many to list here. What I do is that, based on my own personal experience and inner journey and, through the many therapeutic techniques that I have learned along the way, I create a tailored made approach for each person that I work with. In every moment of every session I sense what their own inner wisdom—your own inner doctor—is asking me to bring forth and through which tool form my tool kit. What is unique is that my personal journey is a very rich one, of overcoming huge obstacles in a successful way. I know what others facing illness are going through, not hypothetically or after reading about it but from my own flesh; I know the despair and the fear they are facing. I know the road because I have traveled it, so I can better support someone out of their darkness and into a lighter place.
9. Reading your testimonials page, you’ve helped people from all over the world with a variety of illnesses. What’s your hope for those living with chronic illness?
This is a huge question. I believe everything that happens to us, happens for us. My hope for those living with illness is that you will find the blessing in your personal challenge. It may be showing you something amazing to become. It may be healing other aspects of you, or of your relationships. After all, shit is compost! So turn this shit into compost. My hope would be that more people would find the way to become a sprouting seed that blooms up toward the sun.
10. Tell us briefly about your books.
Amor Arroba Desierto, originally published 15 years ago, is an autobiographical novel in Spanish about my personal story of love and immigration to Israel.
Hope Beyond Illness — A Guide to Living WELL with a Chronic Condition, which I was finally able to write after 33 years of living, dealing and even healing (in the right sense of the word) with MS, is both a personal memoir of how I faced the illness and the disability it was creating (in a country that offered un-orthodox treatments) and, above all, a guide of many tips to help yourself that through years of searching, trying different things and assisting others living with different illnesses, have proved to be beneficial to sooth, release and eventually transform disease form a tragedy to a growth experience.
11. What are your favorite books and who are your favorite authors? Who inspired you to write your story?
I am a Latin American woman, so my favorite authors are Julio Cortazar, Isabel Allende and other Latin authors. But lately I discovered and found that I love Jodi Picoult and Wally Lamb.
The inspiration for the book actually came from a conversation I had with my husband who, when planning a course about releasing pain through tapping, said: “you should write a book of how you healed your MS”. It resonated with me because I had had it for years in the back of my mind as something I owed to give back to life. So I did!
12. We love to Travel the World in Books. Tell us about where you’ve lived and your favorite places to travel.
I have lived in Mexico City and Cuernavaca, Mexico for my first 42 years and been in Jerusalem, Israel for the last 18 years. Though I have traveled all the way to Bali, what I have most loved has been Chiang-Mai, Thailand! The most amazing massages for 10 dls, an hour under the best hands ever! I’ve never felt so healed!
[bctt tweet=”Living and thriving with MS, there is HOPE BEYOND #CHRONICILLNESS “]
Shulamit Lando is an accomplished Body Mind Psychotherapist, Bereavement Councilor, Trauma specialist, Medical Coach and Strategic Intervention Life coach. She has been counseling those with chronic and terminal illness for more than 30 years. She has led many support groups for people living with chronic and life threatening illnesses like Cancer, MS and HIV-AIDS in Israel and in Mexico. Besides her international private practice she currently volunteers at The Yuri Shtern Holistic Center for Cancer Patients in Jerusalem.
Born and raised in Mexico, Shulamit now lives in Jerusalem, Israel.
About Be Our Guest Fridays!
Be Our Guest Fridays is a weekly feature where I feature guest posts by my favorite bloggers and authors. I started this feature as a fun way to give back to the blogging community. I am excited to share with you these creative, inspiring and knowledgeable bloggers and authors. If you’d like to be a guest blogger, leave me a comment on this post and I’ll be in touch.
I love Shulamit’s attitude on finding hope beyond chronic illness. She sees it as a challenge that she overcame with therapy and meditation and has not let MS from taking over her life. I wish all those with chronic illness could not just survive but thrive despite their disease. I wish, of course, for less pain and more hope. I’ve written a few posts about tools that help me cook with RA and help me cope with the pains and mental strain of RA. I think finding your own path is important and I hope you find what will help you lead a happier life.
How do you cope with your chronic illness? What tools and methods help you? Do you go to therapy or counseling?
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